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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Idlib - Firas Karam

Truce Holds in Syria's Idlib as Turkey Bolsters its Military Posts

The sun setting over the opposition-held northwestern city of Idlib, Syria, June 29, 2021. (AFP)

Saturday marked two years since the signing of the truce agreement between Turkey and Russia over Syria's northwestern Idlib province and some regions of the Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces.

The agreement allowed Turkey to bolster its military positions along over 78 posts. It has also deployed hundreds of heavy armored vehicles and thousands of troops.

In spite of the agreement, the past two years have witnessed violations of the truce in opposition-held regions by the regime and the Russian air force. Hundreds of innocent civilians were killed in the attacks and thousands of other fled to the Jabal al-Zawiya area in southern Idlib.

On March 5, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a ceasefire in Idlib to contain the fighting between the opposition and regime forces after the latter had carried out a wide-scale operation, backed by Russia, against Idlib.

The fighting at the time led to the displacement of nearly a million people from Idlib and the death of dozens. Turkey was forced to bring in more troops to contain the situation.

The de-escalation regions, as they are known, have witnessed relative calm in recent weeks. Russian jets rarely fly over the areas. The calm is welcome after two years of air strikes and attacks by the regime and its allied militias against the opposition. The attacks targeted vital facilities, including water pumping stations, medical centers and displacement camps.

Over 270 people, including 120 women and children, were killed in the unrest. Four massacres were reported in the Maarat Masrin and Ariha regions and the villages of Mashoun, Balshoun and Balyoun in Jabal al-Zawiya.

Idlib has in recent weeks witnessed military operations by the US-led international coalition fighting ISIS. Drone attacks targeted members of various extremist factions, including the Hurras al-Din group. Another notable attack led to the killing of ISIS leader Abdullah Qardash in Atmeh in northern Idlib in early February.

Amid the calm, the economy has slowly started to pick up. Administrations in Idlib have started to operate using the Turkish lira instead of the plummeting Syrian pound, demonstrating the extent of Ankara's influence.

The Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib has become the province's window to the world. Turkish commercial goods and food, new and used European and Asian cars and oil derivatives are all brought in from across the border into Idlib.

The local salvation government has recently approved several development and economic projects, including the establishment of a major industrial zone in Sarmada. Main highways have been widened between cities and operations at several vital facilities have resumed, providing new job opportunities for Syrians.

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